On Monday BIll Self talked with members of the media regarding Kansas' upcoming trip down the road to the Jayhawks home away from home, otherwise known as the Sprint Center. In all reality Kansas has very little to play for as the Jayhawks are all but a lock for a top seed but Kansas fans, coaches and players alike probably won't tell you that.
Bill Self on what his team needs to accomplish in the Big 12 Tournament heading into the NCAA's:
"Anytime you play you might as well play to win. We are playing in Kansas City against rivals that would like nothing more than to beat us to enhance their situation. Our goal is to go win the tournament. The biggest thing for us going into the NCAA Tournament is that we would like to get a little bit better, play against quality competition and certainly have to grind out some games. I think that would be the best thing for us."
Another hot topic in around the Kansas basketball is the continued emergence of Elijah Johnson for the Jayhawks. Let's go ahead and put to bed the thought that Kansas doesn't need Tyshawn Taylor because that's too far fetched, but to say Elijah hasn't become important since Taylor suspension would also be overlooking the obvious. There are even rumblings that Johnson has emerged as one of the vocal leaders on the court for this team in a very short time.
"He was real good defensively. He has become our best on-ball defender at least the last couple of weeks. He is getting confidence as he plays and in a game where we have 24-turnovers and he has zero that is pretty good. I am really pleased with him and proud of him.
Another player that Kansas would certainly like to see emerge would be freshman guard Josh Selby. From Self's perspective it's a player a little down on his luck and a rut that he needs to work out of. Unfortunately tournament time isn't always the best time to let a player work through things.
"He has to see the ball go in the basket and he has to be able to go make some plays. He has practiced well so I am just looking at it like he just needs to continue to grind, have a good attitude and stay positive and the ball will go down. He could still be a guy for us this year that comes out and gets 15 or 18 points when we are really struggling. He is potentially still that guy; he just needs to have a bit more confidence moving forward."
Health concerns do surround a pair of players including Selby and senior guard Tyrel Reed. Nagging injuries that players battle through are often a thorn in tournament play but Reed has certainly shown more than enough capability to gut it out.
On the health of Selby's foot:
"He is wearing a brace on his foot that wraps all the way around it which is totally uncomfortable for him because he can't cut or move like he wants to. With that being said, other people have played with it so it is just one of those things that you have to adjust to play with it."
On the health of senior Tyrel Reed's foot:
"Tyrel practices the day before games because he needs surgery as soon as the season is over on his foot. He basically has a bad heel, where there is a piece of bone in that area that is giving him some problems. It is minor injury and is probably equivalent to having an ankle sprain, so he may shoot two days before a game but he is not going to be allowed to do much more than that.
On whether Reed and Selby's injuries could be a concern if the team plays three games in three days:
"I don't think it will be for Josh because I cannot see him doing anything in game one if we are successful to hinder himself in game two based on this brace that he is wearing that totally immobilizes his foot. With Tyrel, that is definitely a factor but we have been playing a lot of Saturday and Monday games and he has had the same injury so it will be more of a stretch this week if we are successful and able to advance. We will just play it by ear because I am not going to do anything this weekend that will jeopardize his health the following week."
And of course just like the fans, Self and the players tend to take the greatness of the Kansas program for granted and Self knows that. Winning an outright Big 12 conference title is a big deal and so to is a championship of any kind. Enjoy the ride.
"Somebody told me the other day, I think we are 62-5 the last two years and we haven't celebrated yet. This year was a big deal the way that we won (the Big 12), but we didn't clinch it because we still had Missouri.
I think one thing I've done a very poor job of with my team is always talking about next game. They become very robotic in thinking about next game. Which is good in an NBA season, but in a college season, this is a big deal to win a championship and we need to enjoy the wins more from this point forward."